|Outside Gillette Castle (Source: Visit Connecticut)|
One attraction to put on your must-see list of RV Short Stops when you’re touring New England is Connecticut’s Gillette Castle State Park. The park overlooks the Connecticut River in the south central part of the Constitution State, about 45 miles east of New Haven.
Positioned atop “the most southerly hill in a chain known as the Seven Sisters,” William Hooker Gillette (1853-1937) built the 184-acre estate. “The focal point of his effort is a 24-room mansion reminiscent of a medieval castle,” according to a profile in Wikipedia.
|William Gillette (Wikipedia)|
More on the park later, but first, a little more about Gillette. He was a noted actor, director and playwright in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and “is best remembered for portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage and in a 1916 silent film thought to be lost until it was rediscovered in 2014.” It is said that his portrayal of Holmes helped create the modern image of the detective with the trademark deerstalker cap and curved pipe.
“Gillette designed the castle and most of its contents personally, periodically checking every phase of their construction. Built of local fieldstone supported by a steel framework, it took 20 men five years (1914-1919), to complete the main structure,” according to information provided by Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
|Gillette Castle interior (Connecticut DEEP)|
Gillette Castle and the adjoining property with its
fine woodlands, trails, and vistas was purchased by the State of Connecticut in 1943 and are “now administered for the
enjoyment of present and future generations.”
“It looks like a medieval fortress, but a step inside the stone castle reveals the built-in couches, table trackway, and woodcarvings that all point to the creative genius that was William Gillette.”
|Gillette Castle State Park in Autumn (StateParks.com)|
The park has stunning views of the Connecticut River and beautiful walking trails that often follow Gillette’s three-mile long narrow gauge railroad. Some of the paths were constructed with near-vertical steps, stone-arch bridges, and wooden trestles spanning up to 40 feet. Other outdoor attractions include a vegetable cellar, a railroad station, and a charming goldfish pond.
Autumn can be amazing. Facilities at the park include: Picnic Shelter, Visitor Center, Food Concessions. (During the off season, the food concessions are only available on weekends and Holidays.)
For information on RV and tent camping at a nearby Devil’s Hopyard State Park Campground, click here.
If you go:
Gillette Castle State Park
67 River Rd., East Haddam, CT
The grounds are open free year round.
The Castle is open daily Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Castle Entrance fees:
Age 13 and Over: $6; 6-12: $2; 5 and under: Free
Tickets are sold until 4:30 p.m.
Staff is available to assist with questions about the Castle’s interior and its history.